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Foster Care FAQs

What is foster care?
Licensed foster care is made up of individuals or families who have requested to be able to take dependent children into their home. Foster homes are licensed and inspected regularly, and foster parents go through a rigorous interview process before being approved.
Are the kids in foster care there because they did something wrong?
No. Kids in foster care are regular children who, through no fault of their own, need to live temporarily outside of their own homes while their parents learn new skills and address safety concerns.
Who can be a foster parent?

Foster parents must be at least 21 years old, pass a background check, complete training, and receive a home study. Foster parents must be able to use sound judgment, like a prudent parent, and demonstrate a responsible, stable, and emotionally mature lifestyle.

What is a foster parent’s role?

Foster parents provide a temporary, safe, and stable home for children who have experienced abuse and neglect and whose parents need time to learn new skills to become the parents their children need them to be. Foster parents care for and meet the meet the physical, emotional, and social needs of children in foster care.

The intent of foster care is to safely reunify children with their families. Foster parents are expected to work closely with the birth parents, when possible, as well as with the county department of human/social services with legal custody, the Guardian ad Litem, and service providers.

Who are the children and youth in foster care?

The majority of children enter foster care due to abuse, neglect, or other family problems. Children and youth in foster care come from diverse ethnic and cultural populations and are generally birth to 18 years of age (sometimes teens stay in foster care after their 18th birthday). They may have special medical, physical, developmental, psychological, and emotional needs, low self-esteem, poor hygiene, or poor academic performance. The child or youth may belong to a sibling group or be an only child.

Are foster parents paid to care for children and youth placed in their homes?

Foster parents receive a monthly reimbursement to offset the costs of providing food, shelter, clothing, and other related expenses. The rate varies and may depend upon the age of the child and the level of care they need. The foster parent is not expected to pay for medical or dental care. These expenses are generally covered by Medicaid.

How long are children and youth in foster care?

A child or teen may be in foster care for one night, several months, or in come cases, several years. Every effort is made to reunify children with their parents. The time spent in foster care is dependent upon each parent’s situation and their ability to engage in services to keep the children or youth safe so that they can be reunited.

Children may leave foster care to live with a relative or another adult with whom they have a significant relationship. This is called kinship care.

How is it determined where a child lives?

Ideally, placements are made with foster families based upon the compatibility of the child’s needs with the family in question, as well as the skills, resources, and location of the foster parent. Human services agencies strive to find a foster home near the child’s parents’ home to encourage frequent visitation and involvement. Human services agencies also look for a foster family who lives near the child’s school or in the same school district.

What about contact with the birth families?

Depending on the area, it is generally encouraged to have contact between foster parents and birth parents based upon the treatment team’s recommendation. Sometimes “icebreaker meetings” are scheduled at the beginning of placement to allow the foster parents and birth parents to meet and focus on the needs of the child. Topics may include foods they like or dislike, interests, routines, and other important information that will reduce the trauma and help with the transition into the foster home.

Contact with the birth family can reduce anxiety and help address loyalty issues for children in foster care. There are many levels of contact, which may include:

  • Sending written information about the child or youth
  • Telephone calls
  • Face-to-face contact
  • Inviting and transporting parents to appointments
  • Coaching on parenting techniques that work for the child